Waterless Urinals: A Deep Subject

Payson council approves change after reports of plumbing problems

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Just because Payson will now let you use water in your urinals, don’t assume they’ve gotten soft on water conservation.

The Payson Town Council last week got a nitty gritty lesson in the chemistry of urine — and the law of unintended consequences.

It goes something like this.

Several years ago, Payson reacted to plunging well levels by imposing the toughest water conservation rules in the state. Those rules not only banned lawns, they also required new businesses to install “waterless” urinals.

Last week, the council loosened the restrictions on the high-tech urinals that use a chemical cube to sanitize urinals without even an itty bitty flush.

But turns out — urine is, well, complicated.

After some in the audience at last week’s meeting asked whether the change signaled a watering down of the water conservation ordinance, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans asked Buzz Walker, who runs the town’s water department, to explain the fine points.

“I’ll talk about urinals all night,” said Walker.

“Perhaps the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version,” said Evans.

So, turns out, some of the businesses that installed waterless urinals several years ago to comply with the town’s restrictions have developed some potentially expensive problems.

The waterless urinals use a blue cube to deodorize the urine, which then drains off into the main sewer line connected to the toilets.

“Essentially,” said Walker, “urine is a form of liquid salt. When it’s not diluted, the salts build up and can create a ridge” where it drains into the sewer line. “That ridge builds up in the sewer line and it catches toilet paper. It’s never been the intent of this department to create any ordinance that creates a problem.”

So Walker asked the council to approve a change in the town’s water conservation ordinance that will allow businesses to switch to a low-water-use urinal, should they develop a problem. Instead, they can install urinals that use 16 ounces per flush — about 88 percent less water than a conventional urinal. “So we’re not the bad guys anymore,” he added.

“So will all the urinals be retrofitted?” asked Councilor Ed Blair.

Walker noted that most of the businesses with the waterless urinals have had no problem and the buildup seems to depend on the geometry of the connection between the urinal and the sewer line. So far, one business in Payson and one in Star Valley have reported problems.

“Will the business owner pay for the changeover or will the town?” persisted Blair.

Walker noted the business will have to demonstrate it’s having a problem — and then pay for the changeover itself.

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